Tim Cone apologizes for ‘hasty’ remarks on Justine Baltazar’s Gilas availability
Interim Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone on Saturday apologized for his “hasty” comments on Justine Baltazar regarding the latter’s willingness to play for the national team.
“I did not mean to infer that he didn’t want to play for Gilas, but rather I was told that we (someone from the SBP–not sure who) called him or his representatives and he was not available,” the multitiled mentor wrote on Twitter.
“We really wanted him at the time because Kai (Sotto) was a question mark and we were lacking bigs,” Cone also said. “Whether he had reasons for not joining us, or if there was a miscommunication, or whether he was actually not called at all, I don’t know because I was not part of the process.”
Cone said that he “spoke out of order” when he talked about Baltazar’s availability for Gilas Pilipinas shortly after the announcement of his appointment last Thursday at the Philippine Basketball Association’s office.
He gave insight on the availability of Baltazar, a fan favorite and fixture in many of Tab Baldwin’s Gilas squads, after being prodded by members for the press.
“Balti, we’ve been trying to get him forever but he’s not available. We tried to get him for the World Cup team. We tried really, really hard to get him for the World Cup. He was one of the guys that we really desired but he is just not available. He has shown us zero interest,” he said.
Cone later on said in his tweet that he didn’t want to start off his Gilas journey with a controversy, hence doing “his best to clarify it.”
I don't want to start off this journey with a controversy, so I'm going to do my best to clarify it. I apologize to Justine Baltazar for my hasty remarks regarding his exclusion from the World Cup pool. I did not mean to infer that he didn't want to play for Gilas, but rather..
— Tim Cone (@manilacone) September 9, 2023
Baltazar, a former La Salle star, has been plying his trade in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League for the Pampanga Giant Lanterns. He last served the Gilas program in the 2021 Asia Cup qualifiers, averaging 7.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.
Before playing for his home province, Baltazar, now 26, suited up for the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japanese B.League. He then moved on to Korea where he signed with the Seoul Samsung Thunders, but was later slapped with a two-year ban by the Korean Basketball League for not showing up.
“I loved watching Justine play in La Salle but have not met the young man, nor have I met or spoken to [Gov. Delta] Pineda. But to both, I apologize,” said Cone.
“It was not my intention to run Justine’s name through this controversy. In fact, I wanted to mention at the time of the press conference how much we had thought of him joining the pool. The kid can play!”